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Beginner’s Guide to Veganism

Beginner’s Guide to Veganism

Being a “Light Body” Means Inside and Out

by Maryam Arjona, SoCal VegFest Event Director

Welcome to 2018! First mystery of the year that must be explained: Why is everyone going vegan?

Literally, so many reasons!

Wanna lose weight? Go vegan.

Wanna get rid of acne, make your skin glow, slow the signs of aging, get rid of wrinkles and dark spots? Go vegan.

Wanna finally show off that six-pack that’s been hiding under the one-pack all these years? Go vegan.

Want an alternative to that blue pill? Go vegan. Yep, a vegan diet helps a lot of men with erectile dysfunction!

Are you suffering from depression, GI tract problems, colon cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, other types of cancers, heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, osteoporosis, PMS, allergies, migraines, bad breath, arthritis or almost all other diseases?

Or perhaps you just want to feel better, youthful, more energetic, HAPPIER?


On top of all that for yourself, how ‘bout going vegan for the world?

Do you want to take part in fighting climate change? Are you wondering how you can help clean up the oceans? Do you consider yourself an animal lover (you better be vegan)?

Need I say it?

As I hope you can tell by my enthusiasm, the list of benefits to going vegan is inexhaustably endless.

Now that you know what all the hype is about, where do you start?

Making big changes can be difficult especially when you feel alone. The good news it’s hip to be vegan, so ask a friend to do it with you.

If you can’t get a friend to commit, there are lots of vegan meetups happening near you, so join one and meet new people. With over 800 million people on Instagram, you’ll have no shortage finding inspiration.

Start by following me on Instagram: @veganCouture_ Then go through the people I follow, and find who inspires you.

Now that you’ve made the choice to be vegan and found your support network, you need to actually do it!

First, let’s get clear on what veganism means. Vegan is a person who does not eat or consume, wear or in any way exploit animals.

Breaking it down even further, following a vegan diet means:

  • No Meat, no Poultry, no beef, chicken, pork, fish or flesh of any other animal
  • No dairy, i.e., milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream
  • No eggs
  • No honey (bees are sentient beings, too)
  • No gelatin (unless plant-based)
  • In a nutshell (npi), no animal products in or on your body!


So what do you eat? Vegetables, lentils, legumes, grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, and vitamin B-12 (try a non-fortified nutritional yeast for a full array of the B-complex nutrients)!

#1 Advice: take it easy on yourself and embrace the change!

You’ll need to re-learn how to cook and season your new food, and chances are it’ll take some time for your taste buds to come around. Most of our lives, we’ve soiled our food with animal fats and sodium so much that our pallets aren’t used to the actual taste of real food. So every few months, go back and try your not-so favorite veggies. You might be surprised to find your taste buds have advanced, just like you have.

But where do you get your protein? This is always the first question people ask. The follow-up is: Are you getting all the nutrients you need in order to be healthy?

Essentially, all vegetables and grains have protein. So, you’ll get enough protein if you eat enough calories during the day. There’s never been a documented case of a person suffering from protein deficiency if they’re not being calorie deficient, this includes the simplest of foods. And protein is way overrated in updated health research.

There is ample protein in kale, peas, spinach, potatoes, yams, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, oats, wheat bread, quinoa, brown rice, hemp seeds, lentils, almonds, millet, bulgur, barley, wheat germ, artichoke, collards, asparagus, broccoli, tempeh, tofu, whole grain pasta, spirulina, just to name a few. In short, eat enough calories, eat a variety of whole plant foods and you’ll meet your daily protein needs.

Another misconception is that B-12 comes from animals. Not true.

Vitamin B-12 does not come from plants, animals or fungi. Only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes needed for its synthesis. B-12 is found in dirt. Animals eat dirt and, so, carry B-12 but they cannot make it themselves.

Our bodies are used to washed vegetables and fruits and we’d get sick if we consumed dirty produce or soil. So rather than adding a heaping scoop of your garden soil to your morning cereal, purchase a vegan B-12 supplement.

As vegans, we also need to make sure we get enough vitamin D. The easiest way is to spend 20 minutes outdoors under the sun each day. Alternatively, find a vegan vitamin D supplement.

Now for recipes. Here are here are a few of my favorites (you can find more on

Breakfast: Oatmeal cooked with half water, half almond milk. Top with sliced strawberries, handful of blueberries, 5-10 golden raisins or 1-2 chopped dates, sliced banana and a handful of raspberries.

Brunch: Wrap/Burrito — Organic wheat tortilla, black beans, cilantro lime rice, salsa, non-fortified nutritional yeast flakes, squeeze of fresh lemon juice, tomato, avocado, lemon-herbed potato wedges, grilled onions. (Find recipes for rice, salsa and potatoes on

Lunch: Rice bowl — Brown rice, lentils, sweet potato, small handful of walnuts, 10-15 golden raisins, 2-3 chopped dates, squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Dinner: Mushroom tacos — Organic corn tortillas, grilled mushrooms, avocado, fresh salsa and fresh mangoes when they’re in season.

Sandwich: Vegan-tuna —  Vegan sourdough toast, soy-free vegan mayo (soy-free), smashed cooked garbanzo beans, finely chopped baby pickles, chopped red onion, and chopped celery, salt and pepper to taste.

Salad: Freshly mixed seasonal greens (spinach, lettuce, kale, arugula), chopped cucumber, cauliflower, broccoli, raw spiralized beets, chopped carrots, sliced avocado, chopped almonds, sprouts, fresh lemon juice, a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and black pepper.

Soup: Veggie Pho —Bring vegan veggie stock and 1 whole sliced yellow onion to a boil. Add sliced shiitake, king oyster or any other type of mushrooms (other than portobello), sliced carrot, roughly chopped broccoli, 4 halves of baby bok choy, 2-3 slices of fresh-cut ginger. Serve with fresh mung-bean sprouts, fresh basil, cilantro, sliced jalapeño, chopped scallion, organic tamari, chili sauce and lime wedges.

Something fun: Deviled potatoes — About 10-12 small-medium-sized red potatoes: boiled until cooked, then cut in half. Turn on the oven to 350. Scoop out the centers of the halved potatoes with a spoon into a medium-sized bowl. Once the oven is preheated, pop the emptied potato skins in for 7-10 mins, upside down. Keep an eye on them not to burn.

While the potato shells are crisping in the oven, start making the filling for the scooped potato centers: Mix 1/4 C vegan mayonnaise (I highly recommend soy-free and tasty Veganaise from Follow Your Heart) and 1 Tbl yellow mustard and 3 Tbl unsweetened almond milk, Salt and pepper to taste and 1/4 tsp paprika with the scooped out potatoes. Start smashing with a fork (or a potato-masher).

Transfer the mixture to a pot, add another 3 Tbl almond milk. On medium heat, give it a quick stir for a semi-smooth texture. Don’t stir too much because it can get stretchy. This should only take 30-60 seconds. Dollop the filling into your potato shells and garnish with chives and more paprika.


Visit and refer to my 21-Day-Raw-Cleanse for additional recipes, and for the 21-day vegan cleanse.

Remember, just because a doughnut is vegan, it doesn’t mean it’s not junk food! The point is you can find a vegan version of anything you desire but try and desire more sensibly 🙂

And, listen, I understand all about cravings and, by all means, find the vegan version of what you desire. Believe me, there are so many delicious vegan alternatives at grocery stores and restaurants. But whole foods will always nourish you the most. Processed foods are not the ideal diet. Eat responsibly!

PS: Talk to your doctor about your dietary changes and be mindful of your allergies, especially Celiac disease.

And, remember, veganism is a way of life not just a diet. Just like you can find vegan meat substitutes, it’s easy to find vegan versions of leather, fur, wool, cashmere and silk. The list of vegan fashion brands is vast and there is a good chance a lot of your wardrobe is already vegan.

The next time you go shopping, remember to read the label. If it’s made with something belonging to an animal, look for a vegan-cruelty-free alternative. Shopping this way gives YOU, the consumer, the real power of acting and choosing what and who you want to support and saves lives. If you know a company using animal products, you can stop buying from that company and start voting with your dollar. That’s the strongest voice you have in this economic climate.

Oh, and stay away from the zoo, SeaWorld included. Ripping families apart and showcasing their offspring in cages (no matter how big), is cruel and definitely not the way to build up your good karma.

Simply, always remember two things:

  1. The most dangerous phrase is: “We’ve always done it this way.”


  1. Almost every vegan once said, “I could never go vegan.”


BE THE CHANGE. Welcome to the cruelty-free world of veganism.


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